Herbicides, a category of pesticides, are designed to control or eliminate unwanted plants. They have become a contentious subject in the United States due to their potential environmental and health impacts.
Over the years, various herbicide products have faced lawsuits and legal challenges. These lawsuits have raised concerns about the safety and regulation of herbicides.
In this article, we will delve into the different lawsuits against herbicide products in the United States. We will shed light on the controversies and consequences surrounding these legal battles.
Glyphosate and Roundup: The Monsanto Controversy
One of the most notable herbicide lawsuits in recent years centers on glyphosate, a key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, a widely used herbicide. Glyphosate has been under scrutiny for alleged links to cancer, particularly non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
In 2019, researchers at the University of Washington reported that the use of glyphosate increases the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma by 41 percent. According to TorHoerman Law, this revelation triggered a wave of litigation against Monsanto, which was subsequently acquired by Bayer in 2018.
Notably, in 2018, a California jury awarded $289 million to a groundskeeper who claimed that Roundup caused his cancer. Although this amount was later reduced on appeal, it set a precedent for further legal actions.
Subsequently, Bayer/Monsanto reached an approximately $11 billion settlement, marking a significant development in Roundup lawsuit payouts and settlement amounts.
According to reports, around 80% of the filed Roundup lawsuits have been settled to date. While some non-Hodgkin lymphoma victims have already received settlement checks, many others are poised to receive their Roundup settlement money in 2023.
The controversy surrounding glyphosate has catalyzed regulatory actions worldwide, with several governments opting to ban or restrict its use.
Nevertheless, the glyphosate debate continues, persisting as a focal point in the ongoing dialogue about the challenges of regulating and addressing herbicide-related health concerns.
Atrazine and Syngenta: Groundwater Pollution Allegations
Atrazine, manufactured by Syngenta, is among the herbicides that have become the focus of legal challenges. This widely used herbicide plays a pivotal role in American agriculture, primarily applied to corn and sorghum crops.
In fact, it holds the distinction of being the second-most widely used weed killer in the United States. According to data from the U.S. Geological Survey, more than 70 million pounds of atrazine are applied across the nation each year. This underscores its significance in modern farming practices.
However, Atrazine’s widespread use has raised concerns due to allegations of groundwater contamination, potentially harming ecosystems and posing health risks.
Atrazine is classified as an endocrine disruptor, and it has been associated with various health issues, including cancer, premature birth, and birth defects. These concerns have led to legal actions against its manufacturers and have prompted discussions about the regulation and safety of herbicides.
In 2012, Syngenta agreed to a $105 million settlement to resolve a nationwide class-action lawsuit related to atrazine contamination of water supplies. In this case, the company did not admit to any wrongdoing but chose to settle to avoid prolonged legal battles.
However, the concerns about atrazine’s impact on the environment persist, emphasizing the ongoing debate over the safety and regulation of herbicides.
Dicamba and Monsanto/BASF: Crop Damage and Drift Lawsuits
Dicamba is yet another herbicide that has been mired in legal disputes, primarily due to the havoc wreaked by herbicide drift on crops. In 2022, over 50 vineyards in California took legal action against the manufacturers of dicamba.
This followed the devastating consequences of drift from nearby cotton fields, resulting in damage spanning an astounding 12,000 square miles of vineyards.
Plaintiffs in these lawsuits allege that the producers of dicamba were aware of the potential for drift to ruin neighboring crops. Nevertheless, they continued to advocate for the use of the herbicide. Notably, Monsanto, now under the ownership of Bayer, and BASF have been embroiled in numerous lawsuits pertaining to dicamba drift.
This issue has had ripple effects, causing harm to fields growing crops such as soybeans and cotton. Consequently, it has further intensified the legal battles and the scrutiny placed on herbicide application practices.
To address the legal challenges, Bayer announced in 2022 that it would allocate up to $400 million to settle dicamba lawsuits. While some individual cases have already undergone trial, it remains a possibility that Bayer may appeal the decisions made by these courts.
As of October 11, 2023, there were 31 pending dicamba cases within the Multidistrict Litigation (MDL).
These cases highlight the importance of proper herbicide application and adherence to label instructions to prevent harm to crops and ecosystems.
Paraquat: Emerging Lawsuits and Health Concerns
Paraquat, a widely used herbicide applied to control weeds in a variety of crops, has garnered significant attention due to its potential health risks.
Paraquat exposure has been significantly linked to a higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. This connection has prompted a wave of lawsuits targeting its manufacturers, including prominent names like Syngenta and Chevron.
As of the latest available data, dated October 4, 2023, there were a substantial 4,752 paraquat-related lawsuits pending. Additionally, a total of 5,062 cases had been filed in the federal courts of Illinois. The first bellwether trial, originally scheduled for July 2023, was subsequently rescheduled to October 2023, reflecting the evolving landscape of these legal actions.
Despite being banned or subject to restrictions in numerous countries due to its potential health hazards, paraquat’s usage continues in the United States. However, it does so under stringent safety measures.
As further research continues to unveil the health effects associated with paraquat exposure, the number of lawsuits may well continue to rise. This, in turn, will inevitably spark ongoing debates about the herbicide’s suitability for use and its regulation in the United States.
The lawsuits against herbicide products in the United States shed light on the complex interplay between agriculture, public health, and regulatory oversight. The controversies surrounding these products have driven public awareness of the potential risks associated with herbicides and their impact on the environment.
While some legal battles have resulted in substantial settlements, they have not fully resolved the underlying issues.
Herbicides remain integral to modern agriculture, and the lawsuits against them highlight the need for ongoing research, stricter regulation, and responsible usage. The outcome of these lawsuits will continue to shape the future of herbicide products in the United States, affecting farmers, consumers, and the environment.